1. The role of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) in the regulation of anion secretion (measured as short- circuit current, Isc) in cultured epididymal epithelia from immature rats was investigated. 2. COX inhibitors attenuated the increase of anion secretion caused by bradykinin (LBK) but had no effect on that caused by PGE2, suggesting that prostaglandin synthesis mediates the secretory response of the tissues to LBK. 3. The apparent IC50 values for indomethacin, piroxicam and L-745,337 in inhibiting the LBK-induced Isc were 0.14, 1.34 and 15.7 microM, respectively. This order of potency: indomethacin > piroxicam > L-745,337 >> DFU suggests the involvement of the COX-1 isozyme in the mediation of the secretory response to LBK. 4. Among the COX products (prostaglandins, thromboxane and prostacyclins) tested, only PGE2 and, to a much lesser extent, PGF2alpha stimulated anion secretion by cultured rat epididymal epithelia. 5. The effect of PGE2 was mimicked by 11-deoxyl PGE1, a specific prostaglandin E (EP)2/4 receptor agonist, but not by sulprostone, a specific EP1/3 receptor agonist, indicating that cyclic AMP-coupled EP2/4 receptors are involved in the LBK-stimulated anion secretion. 6. A reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction study detected the expression of COX-1 and COX-2 mRNA in intact rat epididymis and in cultured epididymal epithelia. The expression of COX-1 mRNA was reduced by LBK by 44 %. 7. Immunohistochemical studies demonstrated the presence of COX-1 immunoreactivity in the basal cells of the intact rat epididymis. By comparison, COX-2 immunoreactivity was detected in the apical pole of the principal cells. 8. The role of COX in the formation of the epididymal microenvironment and the implication of long term administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on male fertility are discussed.